For this author, creative endeavors have been sorely tested by motherhood. But also transformed, and in ways she wouldn’t have imagined – couldn’t have, without her life “rewritten” as it has been, by her children. So linger here, to read all things weaverly, writerly and motherly.


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Friday, February 25, 2011

Winter Breaks...

...make me nuts. My husband never gets off, plans fall through as they did this week, and scheduling play dates are next to impossible, with moms of my son's friends who are inaccessible, too busy, my favorite excuse, because their toddlers pull the cord out of the wall and they don't get any  can-we-schedule-a-playdate phone messages. 

Planning play dates is a pain in my "tushy", Kenny, my five year old's favorite word. When I was a kid, I ran out the door after breakfast and showed up for dinner, with scraped knees from crawling through bushes or falling from at the same time trying to ride my bike and roller skate. There WAS no scheduling. Kids just PLAYED.

Now, on the typical two-hour play date, it takes that long for my boys and their friends to figure out WHAT they want to play. They flit from this toy to that toy, until they finally settle on playing knights and castle, get it all set up, and it's time to call it quits. What kind of imaginary pretend play is that?

So now the week is about over, it's pouring rain out, nothing scheduled, and the boys are doing their computer time, quiet time for me, when they don't fight or argue over who touched whose super hero.

Luckily for me, they are close enough in age that, for all of their toddlerhood, they were best buddies and played well together, building caves out of blocks, towers in the sandbox.  You wouldn't believe all the super heros who have jumped from our window sills. And cardboard boxes that have been transformed into batmobiles.

Now it's become more competitive. Who does mommy love more and why? My younger one refuses to like anything the older one likes which is just about everything -- cars, tools, super heros, stuffed animals, even the aquarium: to kill this week, I took them there to kill a day. We haven't been in over a year. Ryan, my seven year old, was his usual exuberant self, couldn't get enough of the sharks, eels, and my favorite, the sea horses. Kenny was done in fiveminutes.  As soon as we hit one tank, he's ready to move on to the next. Done even with the Nemo fish, while Ryan has his nose stuck to the glass.  Everything is "BORING", I realize, because his brother likes it.

So when you have a long winter break, one child who likes everything, so there is nothing left for the younger one to like, except magic tricks (He wants a wand for his birthday), what is there left for them  to do, especially as the week ends on a torrential raining day, and the last of the sledding snow on the little backyard hill melts away? 

You let them do a LITTLE extra computer time. They get to watch a LITTLE of the horrific cartoon network shows they love and mommy HATES.

And mommy gets to be a venting blogging mom for five minutes.

Death of a Neighbor

It's odd when it's from your hair stylist that your actually learn about your neighbor having died.

Ellen had been going to that same salon for years, where I just recently started going for my coloring and trims. Somehow this stylist, who wasn't even my own, knew we were neighbors.

"It was last week some time," she said, looking perplexed; I should have known, for goodness sakes, we live right next door.  Close enough for  Ellen's bedroom window to overlook our back deck. When my boys were toddlers, I lived out there in the summer, with their baby pool and sandbox, and I always felt as if she was watching us. Not that I ever saw her spying. Usually the curtain in that window was drawn. Still, I  would research what kind large bush I could plant between us.  I tried transplanting a forsythia bush and it promptly died.

The first time we met Ellen, she had knocked on our door to introduce herself --  and to find out if we ever heard anybody rustling in the leaves, by the lattice on that side of her house. I had to stand there with the cold fall air whistling past me, as I didn't feel like asking this elderly squat woman in; I remember how large the empty house felt looming behind me, as I stood there in our doorway for an hour. We were trying to conceive our first baby, but for months were rattling around in this house, large enough for a family of four. The extra empty bedrooms, one for each of the two children we'd imagined, made me feel foolish.

Maybe it wasn't a full hour that I was standing there.  But it felt like one, as Ellen rambled on in a monotone about how she was sure at night she smelled cigarette smoke outside her window, that she'd called the police numerous times and they thought she was crazy. I remember her laughing nervously, trying to assure me that she wasn't crazy. And I didn't think she was. I guessed that she was just left alone enough to worry about these things.

Our next actual encounter I remember as being some years later, when I was happier, finally having given birth to our first child.  Thrilled to show him off,  I stopped by with him in the stroller, to thank her for the baby present she'd left on our front porch. It was around Christmas, and she left a large blue Christmas stocking, with a baby rubber bath book inside.

On her own front porch, she had plastic faded geraniums arranged in a metal bin that I imagined had been there for many years. She opened the door suspiciously, her round face a moon against the dark interior.  She was in slippers as worn and faded as the flowers, slippers with tiny limp bows. Although she was dressed, she pulled a moss green sweater around her as if I'd caught her too unawares. She didn't let me into her house, either.

And then she noticed the baby. "Ohhh!" She forgot herself, letting the sweater fall open to reveal the mismatched peach house-dress underneath,as she leaned over the stroller. She peered at him buried under this brilliant blue blankets. She didn't say anything, just smiled, and we seemed to share a moment of mutual pride and happiness, though she didn't know me and I didn't know her. Then I left, before she could begin to ramble on.

Over the years, I'd see her come and go in her car, never much more than that, until her daughter gave her a tiny yappy dog for company. Then she would be out walking this yappy tiny fuzzy thing, that inevitably escaped her grasp, his leash slapping madly against the pavement, whipping sharply through the trees. Some neighbor or another would be chasing the thing all over the neighborhood. I couldn't help wondering why her daughter hadn't gotten her a cat for companionship, some pet that didn't have to be on a leash that she wasn't strong enough to hold on to. 

On hot summer days, sometimes when she was walking that dog, I was out front with the boys, who could seem just as yappy and wild, running in and out amongst our bushes or digging diligently in the newly spread mulch. I don't remember much of our conversations, except that Ellen liked to remark on how fast they were growing, and about how of course her own children were grown, but she'd raised them in that same house....

Over these past ten years, I never thought much about Ellen at all, except for when she would burn old mail in a metal can in the backyard. The smoke would waft into our yard, and I worried about my son's asthma. I thought about suggesting a shredder, though I imagined she would not rest until she had even burned the shreds. 

Now I'm thinking about her, now that she's gone. Now I'm remembering her, rather than avoiding her whenever she'd be walking that dog because I was afraid I'd be the one chasing him all over the neighborhood. And all this has gotten me thinking about when I was growing up, how we used to get on our bikes and drop by the Rays' house, an elderly couple who would give up packs of gum. For me growing up,that was normalcy. For my children, normalcy is not really knowing your neighbors, except for the sporadic child down the block when he might actually be home. I don't know how much it's about people keeping to themselves more than we used to back then, or people just being too preoccupied in general. It's a different world, and perhaps I've adapted to it too easily. I will raise my children to watch out for their neighbors, especially the elderly, and to offer to shovel their driveways in winter, or bring in their newspapers from the rain. 

"They'll probably be something in the paper this week," my hairstylist said. I will be looking for the obituary. So that I can finally learn more about my neighbor. At least find out  her last name.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rope Necklace with Blue Bead!

This is the first of my rope necklaces with glass beads!  I'm having a lot of fun molding wire around the beads, into interesting, almost sculptural, designs. My interest in weaving is taking me to new levels  I didn't imagine, not when I first started with tapestry. For some reason, these simple necklaces are a thrill to make!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Featured Fiber Folk Community Forum

Featured Fiber Folk Community Forum

Fellow Fiber folk, let's come together for cyber support and inspiration!

My new line of Fiber Charm Necklaces!

My new love -- along side the triangle loom on which I'm working my next shawl -- is my Japanese braiding Kumi loom. I've finished three necklaces, which have little baubles of yarn wrapped in silver wire, what I like to call fiber charms. Here are my latest! They're listed now at :

Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Shawl Finished!

I really like the design of this shawl. It is composed of six triangles that I wove on my 2-foot triangle loom. The design offers some versatility, as it can be wrapped about the neck scarf-like, or worn simply draped over the shoulders. Super soft and warm but light enough for spring! Perfect over a T-shirt!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

First Anniversary of a Child Unborn

Believe it or not, there are still Christmas decorations I haven’t gotten around to putting away. Small things, like the wooden creche that is dismantled on the side table, the sheep on their sides, baby Jesus fallen from the manger. And then there are the odd ornaments that fell off the tree, one that I found behind the wood bin. One that I’d bought as a memorial almost ten years to the baby we lost to miscarriage.

I always think about that loss, even though it was early, when I hang that ornament every year close to the top of the tree. But this year, maybe because I’m back to writing in a way I haven’t been since then, I resurrected this essay I wrote back then, as a way of dealing with my grief. It’s call First Anniversary of  a Child Unborn:

I was glad to be drifting in and out, buoyed along on some small wake, that swell of water lapping against a lake shore. Marveling at what I could not feel, my feet lifted into metal footrests, my legs spread, I would remember asking for more sedative to be added to my IV drip –  I wanted to drift farther out, away from the shore, to peer down at the lake bottom, at fish darting, streaks of lightning as the sun glanced off their scales. Where I could see even our child, lithe and iridescent, undulating through that underwater deep green. He (or she) receded into the shadows, and I strained to catch his glint.

That was the way I would always imagine our baby, iridescent and fluid, even as the doctor had explained to me that the thin tube inserted into my uterus would be suctioning out only “tissue.” Before the procedure, she had sat on the edge of my hospital bed, in a room that might as well have been windowless with the view it afforded onto a rooftop.  I was relieved to have the waiting over, what finally had seemed more interminable than if we had chosen to wait for the tissue to dispel itself naturally; since the procedure was to be performed in the maternity ward of the hospital, we’d had to sit in a tiny waiting room, surrounded by women in various stages of labor. They sat arching back against each contraction. They moaned quietly, and for an hour, I clutched my husband’s hand. I focused on the television suspended from the ceiling, on a cooking show about how to make a perfect soufflé.

I was thirteen weeks when my obstetrician couldn’t  detect the heartbeat. “It may just be still too early,” she said, still moving the doppler around my belly. But if I’d glanced at her face, I would have seen her concern. She resorted to a transvaginal ultrasound so that she could at least glimpse the heart, to see that black and white flickering I had witnessed only a month earlier.

The flickering was gone.

She pointed to the image of my enlarged womb, black and empty except for a tiny kidney bean with the yoke sac still attached. “By now, the fetus should be filling this,” she said, with her finger tracing the hollow shadow of my uterus.

I stared at the screen. At the image too similar in size and shape to the one a month earlier.

The doctor tried to explain that there may have been an extra chromosome or one that was actually missing. She explained something about those hormonal surges so powerful, they were able to trick the body into thinking it was still carrying a viable fetus, the reason my womb had continued to expand.  She explained all of this to me in the gentlest of tones, her voice reaching me as some distant rumbling of an approaching storm.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

 I squinted at the screen. I tried to make out something, some small movement, that flickering the doctor may have missed.

She left me alone to get dressed. Alone with that last image of my child frozen on a monitor screen, looming blue against the stark overhead lights.

It was at eight weeks when I first saw that flickering heartbeat, as tiny as a bird’s. I kept that little black and white image in my wallet, and began to follow our baby’s development religiously, logging onto internet sites that sent me weekly updates of his steadfast growth, in those very early days, his cells dividing hundreds of thousands of times a day. A little later, his spine, however delicate, began to form and his fingers began to bud. But on that day when there was no flickering heartbeat, there also was no skeleton, no budding fingers – at thirteen weeks, our baby hadn’t developed past his eighth week. There was the mere translucent, tentative beginnings of our child.

After the D&C, I could only imagine our baby as depleted, drained of that iridescence. I no longer could glimpse him through that underwater deep green.  When I would think about my womb, it was light pink and hollow, no longer clouded with amniotic fluids and the translucent beginnings of our child.  I actually did feel lighter, though it was the weightlessness of having become untethered, a balloon snapped up and hurled mercilessly. Unlike the weightlessness of sparrows I’d watch flit past the window, and I would marvel at that, how birds could orchestrate the wind. But I was thinking too hard as you can in still moments; recuperating in bed long after I’d finished my prescription of Codeine tablets, I whiled away days watching the weather channel, reruns of clouds passing over the United States, distracted only by those quick movements of birds outside the windows, what sometimes seemed nothing more than fleeting reflections across the glass.

“We can get pregnant again. I mean, at least we know we can,” my husband said one afternoon, rubbing my feet as he sat with me in our bedroom; I’d taken to bed as if I had the flu.

My husband’s hurt and disappointment ran as deep as my own. But I was grateful for his rallying himself out of his own hurt, to try and comfort me. Perhaps our miscarriage really had just been a mere fluke of nature. I was reminded of what the doctor had said, that some chromosome may have been missing, the ceasing of that heart nature’s way of telling the body that this embryo wasn’t meant to be.

On some level, I had to believe that my doctor were right -- maybe it had been, essentially, only “tissue.” So with what I thought was a changed perspective, I gathered up all my hope to begin anew. I resumed an exercise routine so that I could fit back into my jeans, all those pants that had just begun to feel too tight. I packed away the maternity clothes I’d bought too soon.

As instructed by my doctor, we waited three months before trying again. But the months passed, and by the fall, I found myself having to resort to charting my temperatures and ovulation kits. I came to know more than I ever cared to about my reproductive system, watching for all the signs of ovulation, even examining my cervix which felt nothing like the tip of a nose, as described in fertility pamphlets. I imagined what I could not see, some sea crustacean, an underwater cave reef, and I was reminded of one of my husband’s scuba diving stories, of having to fight his way through a cave, against the current, digging his elbows into the sand, struggling through a murky darkness. My imagination could stray no farther than that; my uterus now was a black hole. The dark of moonless nights when you can’t see your hand in front of you. I didn’t know I could become so fixated, but I began to feel embarrassed by our assumptions, our buying a house large enough for a family.

By Christmas at least, I had thought we would be pregnant again, so that I could forget that our first one was to have been born around the middle of December. Two weeks before Christmas, I hadn’t even put up the wreath.  But just as my husband had been the one to finally get me out of bed after the D&C, so was he the one to bring down all the decorations from the attic. The tree ornaments were kept in an old torn cardboard box, and there was even the bell, a painted over-turned paper cup I’d made in kindergarten. I thought of all the times it had been wrapped and unwrapped from the old yellowed tissue paper, from that first Christmas when I’d brought it home from school, thirty-odd years ago. When I was still too young to foresee the future, to even think about what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, when Christmas had been simply about this, unwrapping all the ornaments like new fresh surprises.

This year, the ornaments seemed old and shabby, the glazed angel’s wing chipped, and I was already dreading having to rewrap them all, when the house would be littered with dried pine needles from the tree and greens. I would have to cut the greens from out back, and for a moment, my gaze was pulled to the window, to the white humid haze drifting through our spruces; for December, the weather was unusually warm and humid, and confused robins flitted from branch to branch. I would fancy myself one of them, like the one perched on the deck railing, looking up and around, perplexed at finding himself in an unfamiliar climate.

The closer we got to Christmas, the less I was looking forward to it, and I would be up nights after dreams I couldn’t remember but feel, as if they’d brushed up against my skin. Sometimes it was the heat that would wake me up, clanking up from the basement and swooshing through our new pipes, and I would wander the house. On one of those nights, I wandered into the room that would have been the nursery.
Since my miscarriage, I hadn’t been in this room, and was somehow surprised to find it still in disarray as we’d only started to get it ready. On a wall, beneath old paint, were hints of old wallpaper, and I stared at the layers, shocked suddenly, to be reminded that the house was harboring a past other than our own. The paper was so faded, I could barely make out its pattern – tiny yellow butterflies. The butterflies were sweet and delicate, and I had to lean my head against the wall. How, after so many months, could the pain be building rather than diminishing? Like labor pains. As if I were readying myself for birth.

If we had been able to get pregnant again as quickly as we had the first time, perhaps the pain of our miscarriage would have been completely dissipated. As if our baby really had only amounted to so much tissue. But at one time, within that tissue, within that blurred imagine on a monitor screen, I had witnessed that beating heart, that rapid flickering like some tiny bird’s. I had imagined the evolution of our child, that unfolding of one cell into another, into a completed skeleton, however fragile. A mere sketch rendering yet to evolve into actual cartilage and bone, but I had been able to imagine our baby as whole and substantial, ready to be pushed out into the world.  I had imagined its entrance as one to be heralded.  And because of that, now I was missing something else, its departure as one to be mourned. 

All these months, I had tried to do just that, to diminish my loss. That had left me yearning for more to hold on to, not less. I wished now that we’d had the chromosomal test done on the tissue. I wished that I knew whether it had been a boy or a girl. Because now I was wondering about that, my baby’s soul, if that wasn’t what I was seeking when I’d squint, trying to trace the trail of some bird rising up against the sun. As if I’d imagined that flight. As if I’d only imagined my child.

Months would pass before I would venture into that room again, before I could face repainting those walls. And I would not be preparing it as a nursery, but as an extra guest bedroom; we still would not be pregnant, and would be entering the arena of fertility treatments. But I would have moved onto a greater acceptance. Because on that first Christmas after losing our baby, that first anniversary I did not allow to pass without some recognition. On an unusually warm day, a week before Christmas, I didn’t know that I would stop into a gift store to buy an ornament. But once I was in the store, I knew exactly what I was looking for. The small one I found in the back: dangling from a tiny rose, a glass snowflake. Clear. Iridescent.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

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"Go MAKE it!"

When my children can’t have something they want, I tell them,  “Go make it, then.” They can look annoyed at first, but then I see those mind-wheels turning, and they’re off in search of the found objects, and read and willing to cut and paste.

When they were really little, I did indulge them; at Rite Aide, those little two-dollar cars would be strategically displayed up by the cashier’s counter, so every mother with a whining little boy would have to stop, and most often, like me, would give in and buy him one.  Not only did throwing that little purchase in with the necessities of shampoo and toothpaste stave off a tantrum, it gave me great pleasure – I admit, I loved to see how such a small purchase utterly brightened my boys’ day, and for a few hours became their most prized possessions, until the cars were lost under the couch or somewhere we just couldn’t find them.

But that WAS when they were little. It’s since become more complicated, starting in first grade, this year, when Ryan came out of school one day and announced,  “I want a Beyblade.”

What the heck was a Beyblade?

He told me that Eric, is first-grade buddy, said if he begged for one, he would get them. Funny. Too funny.

Anyway, his birthday was coming up so I said he could wait. I thought that was the end of that.

Then just a week before Christmas, he comes out of school all excited about Pokemon cards. “Mom, you HAVE to buy me a pack!”

No, you can’t have a Pokemon cards. Christmas is around the corner, put it on your Santa list. . . .

“But you can get them at Target for five dollars!!!”

This made me stop in my tracks. I rarely ever even took him to Target, to avoid just these kinds of conversations. So how would he even know how much they cost?

“Eric has them and that’s where his mom got them.”

I saw it now: Eric and his mother are at Target, and to avoid her own scene in the middle of the store, she tosses the pack of Pokemon cards into her shopping cart.

“Christmas is COMING.”

I need them NOW.”

I felt those tiny little hairs on the back of my neck starting to stand on end. Even the hairs on the back of my hands, on my legs… “Then go home and count out your change.”

“I don’t have enough!”

Which was true. A couple of months before, he hadn’t been able to wait until his birthday for the Beyblade, so he’d spent just about all his spare dollar bills and coins on that.

 “Then go home and MAKE one!”

The first time I began this mantra, was when he kept bugging me about how he wanted a DS. So I told him to go home and make one – and he did. He found a piece of small cardboard, drew on it a screen and buttons, and he had his DS. Not only was he proud of his creation, he played with it. He was content to pretend. And as far as I’m concerned, this pretend world is paramount.

Since then, he has made LOTS of stuff – all the stuff he can’t have. He made his own iphone from the cover picture that came with mine, all protected in packaging tape so that it has weathered well his hours of pretend play. This making of things has translated well into the making of just about anything that comes into his head: batmobiles, spaceships, Ben "5" watches (since he couldn't have the Ben10 one...)

As to the Pokemon cards, Ryan did come home and make a pack of those as well. And for that one afternoon, he was content with his homemade cards. But the next day, he came home again begging for them.

This time when I said no, I wasn’t prepared for the torrent of tears. Not the angry, frustrated tears I was more used to from my children when they couldn’t every something they wanted. These were tears of devastation. “I can’t battle….” He whimpered. “Everyone has them and they battle at recess. I can’t BATTLE.”

I saw it now. I saw him and his buddies sitting together on the floor. I saw Ryan watching them all battle and trading cards.  I saw him being left out. I remembered this too well from my own childhood. This hollow hurtful left-out feeling.

Christmas WAS only a week away. But I knew he needed them now. The protective side of me took over. The one that kept him away from stairs when he was only still crawling. The one that tightly swaddled him in those thin hospital blankets when he was born.

I knew though, I couldn’t just buy them for him. Because as he grew, there would be bigger things he would want, and I couldn’t just buy him those things either. But he only had $2 in his piggy bank so he couldn’t buy them himself.

I told him he could pay me back the other $3 with extra chores. Because this time, it wasn’t just about him wanting stuff other kids had. It was about how he saw himself. An image that would be challenged from now on, as well as become so much more expensive and complicated.

Since then, there of course has been other stuff he wants, but nothing that has been as crucial as the Pokemon cards. His new obsession is the Ben10 watch, not because every other kid has it – which they don’t ­­– but just because he wants it.  And which he knows he won’t get any time soon, as there are no birthdays coming up and Christmas has just passed. So he not only made one for himself, he made one for everyone in the family, including Gramma, and we all feel far more safe wearing these Ben5 watches (as he calls the since they are even more powerful than the Ben10 ones...), as they have special powers of lightning, fire and electricity to ward off all bad aliens. Besides all that, they make for very striking cuff bracelets!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Star Has Fallen

A star has fallen. Onto our floor and now it is STUCK there. The stars are part of solar system I bought at K-Mart, on a frustrating day when I had to miss my five-year-old’s kindergarten Christmas party, to take my mother to the doctor, an appointment we ultimately missed, anyway, because of the weather. So I was feeling guilty and disappointed, and I picked up two packs of these two-dollar stars, one for each of my boys (can’t give anything to one and not the other!)

What should I expect for two bucks? The plastic stars are the best part, really DO glow. But the planets are flimsy cardboard, with a just bit of glitter glow stuff sprinkled on them. Saturn is actually pretty cool. But the gummy stuff doesn’t hold, and one by one the planets are falling. Saturn, along with Jupiter and and Pluto were found lost amongst the dust bunnies under my son’s bed.

 While I was able to sweep out the planets with the dust mop, there’s this one star that adheres much better to the wood floor than to the painted wall. First reaction: irritation. I was vacuuming  and thinking what I usually think when I’m vacuuming: how much I HATE my vacuum.  An enormous heavy-duty monstrosity I’d invested  $300 in,  years ago, Ryan was first diagnosed with allergies. Back then, I thought it paramount to have a special filter system to suck up every tiny allergen particle. That was back when I was a newer mom, had to have everything just so. Now I know a little dust is not going to kill my son. But since it was such a monetary investment, I put up with the vacuum, as it bangs into our newly painted walls, maneuvering around corners like an old, blind lame dog.

Anyway. The star is stuck right in the doorway to our boys’ room. I thought about taking the time to go find a plastic paint scraper in the basement to scrape it up. But I haven’t – after a couple of weeks now, the star has grown on me.  

I’m not sure what now makes me like the star. Maybe because it does just that, wakes me up from my predictable I-hate-my-vacuum trance.  A trance that can mutate into the what-other-chores-I need-to-get-done trance. I started thinking about the fact that my children are still young enough to believe me if I were to tell them that real stars can fall from the sky like snowflakes, bright and sprinkling sidewalks and forests everywhere. As they are still young enough to believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny. I can imagine them hunting in the dark for trails of stars at their feet.

Or maybe it’s just that it’s not the first start to be stuck.  There are still the stars stuck to the window frames from before we moved here, that the painter gave up trying to remove and just painted over them. Maybe the stars are all history. And one day, when we move, when the boys are grown, someone else will be irritated by the star at first. But then finally choose to leave it alone. Let it lay where it has fallen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Battle Force Keys

My seven year old, Ryan, has been home sick with pneumonia, and while the doctor has ordered rest, I do try to limit the TV and computer time. I’ve tried to get them interested in The Red Balloon and classics like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to little avail (though they do love the Wizard of OZ!) But going on two weeks now, the days are getting a bit longer, so he has watched and rewatched a new favorite, Hot Wheels Battle Force 5. I hate these cartoon DVDs. My husband thinks they’re harmless, and then I don’t know what to think, as I am not into boy things (My boys stopped asking me to play super heroes when I refused to fight battles and instead, would have Batman ask Spiderman  over for tea).

Truthfully, some of these commercial obsessions inspire my boys to create their own worlds, imaginary spinoffs of the cartoon ones, except a whole lot better! Ryan has created his own Battle Force, but it’s Battle Force 10, and he has spent countless hours now, creating Battle Force keys. The keys  “Give the cars a lot of power. You get them when you’re in a battle and you can go to that place, wherever you want.  The key makes a portal and the portal takes you to a battle zone.”

When his younger brother came home from school yesterday, he got him making not keys, but some kind of  “Car Powers:”
There’s nothing I like better than to see them creating, and if the inspiration has to come from cartoon stuff I don’t value, so be it. And, while I have little desire to visit a battle zone, when cooped up at home sick for two weeks, who wouldn’t want their own special power key that would open some other portal?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My first triangles!

The triangle loom, my latest obsession. Love it! 

On the loom now is my third triangle, as I’m attempting my first shawl. Or maybe it will be more of a scarf wrap, we will see – half the fun is not knowing what you're doing until it's done!

I began my first triangle with a tighter weave, and now prefer a loose effect, which really only means weaving on every other nail instead of every nail. What is different about the triangle loom is that you work with one continuous ball of yarn. In  tapestry and on the rigid heddle, there is always the separate yarns or threads for wefts and warps. Here, the warp and weft are one entity. And the other difference is, that even though you do weave side to side, the weaving ends in the middle, on the very last bottom nail. As you can see here, I’m almost to the middle now:

Anyone interested in learning triangle weaving, this site is a great place to start:

I also have triangle videos on my Fiber Hub at:

Here’s what my first two triangles look like. It's a very fuzzy yarn, so the looser weave has made it easier to work with. At the end, it needs to be "fulled," washed with some agitation. Still, I enjoy the raw state of weaves just off the loom!

Monday, February 7, 2011

I first heard about Japanese braiding from one of my customers at a craft show. Admiring the rope straps I had made for one of my shoulder bags, she mentioned that she thought I might be interested in braiding. Curious, I did a little research, and wound up eventually with the Kumi Loom.

Kumihimo actually means braiding with three or more cords. The original braiding loom was the Marudai, something that looks like a wooden stool with a hole in the middle of the seat! It’s actually quite handsome, as seen here:
This photo is from Kathy King James’ A Complete Guide to Kumihimo on a Braiding Loom. In this wonderfully instructive book, she begins by clarifying the difference between working on a Marudai and the Kumi. On the Kumi, one cord at a time must be moved around the loom, rather than two. In recent years, various portable braiding looms have been fashioned out of foam, and the Kumi Loom is one of them. But because it must be held, you only have one hand to work the chords. I’m constantly reminding myself to do this, as I tend to keep switching hands, only slowing down the entire rhythm.

I’ve completed a few braids now, working with one of the most basic patterns, the round-braid 8-strand. In preparation for a braid, each chord of yarn or ribbon or whatever you like really, is wound around a plastic bobbin. All the ends from the bobbins are tied into a knot to be slipped down through the middle of the loom. Depending on the braiding pattern, each chord is assigned a starting slot on the foam loom, a simple disk. Here is how the pattern for the 8-strand can wind up looking:

What I find thrilling is the range of effects that can be achieved just by varying the placement of the original chords around the loom. Here are some different effects in my early braids:

The complexity of the different braiding patterns are beautiful. I’d decided that I wanted to try a line of braided necklaces because the intricacy of their design would be better appreciated than just as shoulder bag straps. So, as I am entirely self-taught at this, maybe you can learn with me along the way!

Japanese Braiding

I’m working on a necklace series on the Kumi Loom, a portable loom for Japanese braiding.  Kumihumo is the  Japanese term for braiding. Such a simple rhythmic overlapping of ribbons and yarns, around and around the small loom. The potential for complex patterns is endless. What is particularly interesting is how the texture of yarn can actually change as it is pulled into the braid. 

Creative Mothers

Our Creative Mothers group  – a small clan of moms struggling to carve out small niches of time to write, sew, weave or paint. Mothers who have come together not so much because of a common interest, but because of a common drive:  to satiate the creative impulse. We sit around our kitchen tables, if we can sit long at all, before one child is plastering stickers in another’s hair or finding marbles to mouth. Our conversations are as disrupted as are our daily lives, when only a half-load of wet laundry makes it to the dryer because of a bloodcurdling sibling squabble over a tiny Lego Star Wars gun.

 “I’m just amazed they’re still alive,” one astonished mom says, and we can laugh at this.  It’s true – I can look at my boys and marvel at how they are thriving, are robust and growing. Before children, it was my creative ambitions I nurtured. But when my son was born, I paced the hospital room as he cried, feeling I already was failing at this nurturing thing.  I might have questioned whether I would succeed as a writer. But what if I failed at THIS, succeeding as a good mother? Who could soothe and quiet my son if his own mother couldn’t?

In the space of the hour or two we Creative Mothers get to spend together, our children of various ages and stages reek havoc on our houses. Pillows become steppingstones from room to room, couch throws make-shift tents erected across living room, and every bin of plastic play food, blocks and legos are eventually picked through and left scattered. 

But long since, from their first forays into tissue boxes and Tupperware, we have learned to appreciate the messes of our children; it is in the mess-making that we  moms can find time to exhale, to take stock of who we were and who we are becoming.  At least for me, motherhood has left me a bit stunned, as I hadn’t anticipated my complete derailment creatively –– my creative life is no longer linear. My third novel hasn’t gotten written yet.  This is the most writing I’ve done in ten years.

But because my linear life has turned cyclical, I have been forced to reinvent myself, several times in fact.  With the birth of my first child, I reinvented myself as the content stay-at-home mom, and I reveled in that new role. I was content not to be writing, not to have any creative endeavors at all, beyond the immediate one of this new baby. Who at 3:00 am, with his very first gurgling smile, could give me the same pleasure I’d only ever gleamed from the perfectly revised sentence.

This new-found contentment lasted what seemed a good long time, but really only until measuring cups no longer proved such easy entertainment. When he’d rather find his own entertainment, with forays out the door in his diapers to go dig up the fresh mulch in the garden beds. He was still of course, my child. He would always be my son. But, with his own impulses, his own mindset, he finally belonged to himself. Not to me.  Without my having realized what he had been, I saw what I had lost in him – my creative outlet.

Since then, weaving has become the creative endeavor I have pursued with the same ambition I did writing. For another mom in our group, with a degree in film, she is now pursuing her ambition to write a novel. In one way or another, we are all trying to answer to our creative impulses, in as much as they might have been reconfigured by our priorities as mothers.

Our get-togethers end with our having to pick up the messes, as much as we do encourage our children to pick up the strewn pillows and Legos themselves. But they also end with our having been able to reinforce each other – I think for all of us, our creative endeavors have been challenged by having children. And, for me at least, I feel indebted to this challenge. This derailment. Because the cyclical life does necessitate reinventing, it has proven far more invigorating, more inspiring, than the linear one.

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